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Carter v. State

235 P.3d 221 (2010)

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Carter v. State

Alaska Court of Appeals

235 P.3d 221 (2010)

Facts

In March 2006, Police Officer Earl Ernest responded to a call from Romanda Lee. Lee had reported that her boyfriend, Lorenzo Carter (defendant) had hit and choked her. When Ernest arrived on the scene, Lee’s daughters told him that they had seen Carter assault their mother. The State of Alaska (plaintiff) charged Carter with second-degree assault and interfering with a report of domestic violence because he had attempted to prevent Lee from calling the police. At Carter’s trial, Lee and her daughters were called as witnesses. Lee testified that Carter had never assaulted her and that she had asked her daughters to accuse Carter of assault. Lee’s daughters testified that they had not seen Carter assault Lee. The prosecutor then called Ernest to testify. Ernest testified that he had experience investigating domestic-violence cases that involved strangulation through his time with the police academy and police department. Carter’s defense counsel objected to Ernest testifying about any signs of strangulation on the ground that such testimony required an expert witness. However, the judge allowed Ernest to testify that a strangulation victim often exhibits petechiae, which are burst blood vessels in the eyeballs, and that strangulation victims often do not experience bruising right away. Ernest also testified that Lee had exhibited petechiae and that she had scratches on her neck that were consistent with strangulation. Carter appealed the trial court’s decision to allow Ernest’s testimony about the significance of Lee’s petechiae and scratch marks because he was not an expert witness. On appeal, the prosecution argued that Ernest never testified about whether he believed that Lee had been strangled but had testified only about his training and Lee’s physical conditions.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Mannheimer, J.)

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